But a shiprider would ensure that it was known at the time of arrest which nation would be prosecuting the case. Because the shiprider would be a law-enforcement agent of that nation, he would be well trained in the appropriate rules of evidence. Additionally, some nations, such as Kenya, require an oral testimony to accompany the admission of evidence. 4 Having a shiprider conduct the arrest would allow that testimony to come from the arresting officer. Otherwise, the United States is left with the undesirable and often impossible options of either flying a U.S. sailor to Kenya to testify, perhaps from a currently deployed ship, or allowing the pirates to be acquitted for lack of evidence.
The United States has already felt the impact of this evidentiary rule. In February 2009, the USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) captured suspected pirates attempting to seize the MV Polaris . That June, 11 sailors from the Navy and Coast Guard were flown to Kenya to testify in the prosecution of the accused. But after the sailors’ arrival for the scheduled trial, it was postponed. This meant they had to be flown back to the States and returned in September, when the trial resumed. 5
Additionally, a shiprider agreement would provide another, less concrete, advantage to participating nations. Aside from increasing cooperation between arresting and prosecuting nations, it would send the unequivocal message that the international community was serious about ending piracy. As long as there is not a clear procedure for the capture and prosecution of pirates, they will see it as beneficial to continue their operations. An increase in international cooperation will act as a greater deterrent to those considering piracy.
The increase of this activity off the coast of Somalia must be met with new tactics and weapons. The willingness of the pirates to act in the face of a unified international effort would be severely diminished, with the potential for long-term success. The use of shipriders, along with new levels of international cooperation, may be the solution.
2. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Law art. 105, 10 December 1982, 1833 U.N.T.S. 397.
3. James Kraska, Contemporary Maritime Piracy: International Law, Strategy, and Diplomacy at Sea (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011), 168.
4. Geiss and Petrig, Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea , 178.
5. RADM Terry McKnight, USN (Ret.) and Michael Hirsh, Pirate Alley: Commanding Task Force 151 off Somalia (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2012), 95.